UNHCR Chief Urges Increased International Support of Afghan Refugees

Afghan refugee Mulan Birdi pictured in Peshawar, Pakistan at a UNHCR voluntary repatriation center. Afghan refugee Mulan Birdi pictured in Peshawar, Pakistan at a UNHCR voluntary repatriation center. UNHCR/Andrew McConnell

September 12 2018

During the first week of September, the UNHCR chief visited Iran, Pakistan, and Afghanistan to discuss the Afghan refugee situation.

Currently, Pakistan and Iran host 2.6 million registered Afghan refugees, as well as a large number of undocumented refugees. Filippo Grandi, chief of the UN Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), visited both countries, as well as Afghanistan, in an effort to increase international support to end suffering in Afghanistan and to explore solutions to help Afghan refugees return home. While in Pakistan, Grandi was joined by UN Emergency Relief Coordinator Mark Lowcock. During their visit, Mr. Lowcock stated “There is a major opportunity now to help the people of the tribal districts to improve their lives. The international community must do all it can to support the government in this.”

Pakistan and Iran have hosted millions of Afghan refugees since 1979 following the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan. One refugee, Mulan Birdi, fled from Afghanistan in 1979 and told Grandi “I am sick, in eyes and body, so I want to go home to Afghanistan.” Birdi is planning on returning to Afghanistan in the near future. Other Afghan refugees have also begun returning home through the process of voluntary repatriation.

However, the number of refugees seeking repatriation this year has declined due to the worsening security situation in Afghanistan. Civilian casualties are at an all-time high according to the UN Emergency Relief Coordinator, and approximately 1,700 civilians were killed within the first six months of 2018.

Imran Khan, Pakistan’s Prime Minister, told Grandi that refugees hosted in Pakistan will not be forced to repatriate. Additionally, a new global compact on refugees introduced by the UNHCR is set to be adopted by UN member states this year.


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By Cecilia D'Arville

Editing Shrabya Ghimire

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